Last week, I happened to be the third person in a conversation with Sam Wormington (he's 90) and my mother (she's 89). Both were talking about their World War II experiences-----at the same time.
I participated as a nervous listener.
All my life it's been unsettling for me to be on the sidelines when two people are talking at the same time. I remember one conversation in particular, back when my dad and Boots Belote were still alive.
Boots lived on his ranch with his wife Jewel at the base of a mountain off Sagle Road. Like so many around this area, his farm land eventually turned into a prime location for high-priced homes.
He was a colorful character. He chewed snoose and spit a lot while spinning his many yarns. I think he participated in a few back-room card games in downtown Sandpoint too. Our family mental archives could supply many good Boots stories.
He was a good friend to our family and a horse trader, among other things. For a while he sold tack.
At that time I was ready to purchase a Western saddle all my own. And, at that same time, Hereford saddles were the rage. Boots came to the house one day to help me pick out my saddle from his catalog.
When the 'splainin' and dickering period at our kitchen table had ended amidst Bull Durham smoke rings and several exits by Boots for snoose spitting, the only participation I had enjoyed in the deal was writing the check for the saddle which Boots would deliver later, along with a complimentary lariat.
Beyond that, Harold and Boots happily duked it out verbally---two ol' cowboys with an endless supply of tales to tell about saddles and horses they'd known over the years. Each told their simultaneous stories while I listened.
That was my first real experience at monitoring a "talk-at-the-same-time" conversation. It gave me good practice for refereeing during all those years in front of English classes when discussions on hot topics turned spirited.
In spite of my years of teaching, I still get nervous while watching two people talk at the same time without listening to each other.
With Sam and Mother's conversation, I was especially sensitive because I knew Mother never heard a word about Sam's experience as a gunner during WWII in Europe, and, for sure, while telling his tale, he had no idea that Mother had worked as a Rosie the Riveter.
I tried, with little success, to moderate the conversation so that each participant would get some semblance of what the other was saying. Finally, I just stood up and relayed information coming from Sam's mouth over Mother's direction.
And, soon, Sam announced to me, "I can hear, ya know."
"Yeah, I know you can hear, Sam, but Mother can't," I responded. "You've got to talk into her left ear." Sam was sitting about ten feet away on Mother's right.
Shortly after that comment----whether she heard Sam and my interchange or not, I'll never know----Mother said, "Ya know, Marianne, I think I need to get a hearing aid."
To which I said, "Yes, that would be a good idea."
Mother once had a hearing aid, but she lost it a few years ago and figured she really didn't need a new one anyway. Lately, however, she's been in situations where she's decided it would be nice to know what other people are saying, especially when the conversation participants aren't trained---like her family members---to increase the decibel level.
So, today that's where we're headed---to Costco for Mother to have a hearing test and to get fitted with hearing aids. People tell me this should make a world of difference for Mother, and I believe them. It will be nice for her to increase what she once called "40-percent" now diminished to about 20-percent hearing ability.
Plus, we won't have to talk so loud while visiting with her, and other people won't have to remind me that they "CAN hear, ya know."